Melanie Parker
Executive Director

Melanie is co-founder of Northwest Connections and serves as its Executive Director.  She is known for her ability to bring diverse people together to accomplish large scale projects.  Melanie was the primary catalyst behind the Montana Legacy Project, an effort to permanently protect 310,000 acres of corporate timber land.  She helped initiate and manage the Southwest Crown Collaborative, an effort to put $40 million dollars in job-creating restoration on public lands.  She has designed and still currently teaches a number of Northwest Connections field based ecology courses.

Melanie graduated with honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in Environmental Science. She attained a Master's of Science degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana in 1997.  Melanie is on the steering committee for the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, and serves on the Forest Stewardship Council US Board of Directors.

Melanie was born in Arizona and raised between there and Northern California. She has always been an avid outdoors person. She has two children in whom she works to instill a strong work ethic and a love for land, animals and people.

 Adam Lieberg
Conservation Program Coordinator 

Adam is Northwest Connections' Conservation Program Coordinator.  He is an accomplished naturalist with superb outdoor skills.  Adam's primary field work relates to the monitoring of rare carnivores such as lynx, fisher and wolverine.  He is also active with grizzly bear monitoring and co-leads Swan Valley Bear Resources, a collaborative group that works to reducing bear-human conflicts.

Adam has an Environmental Studies degree from the University of Montana and has worked on a number of research projects in the region.  He is a lead instructor at Northwest Connection, and is known for his excellent ability to connect with a wide diversity of people.

Adam lives in the Swan Valley and can often be found spending his free time tracking animals, exploring new country, or pushing himself to learn more about the natural world.

  Andrea Stephens
Education Program Coordinator

Andrea Stephens is Northwest Connections' Education Program Director.   She is an instructor for the Wildlife in the West Field Program and the Watershed Dynamics course of the Landscape and Livelihood Field Semester.  Andrea also leads Northwest Connections aquatic field work.  Currently she serves as co-chair of the Swan Lands Native Fish Committee where she is championing the conservation of west slope cutthroat trout populations.

Andrea earned a Master's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and a Bachelor's degree in Natural Science and Geology from the University of Puget Sound. She has worked for Northwest Connections for fifteen years.  Andrea is one of those rare instructors who can translate complex scientific concepts to all audiences.   She is an expert naturalist and an outstanding teacher.

Andrea and her husband have two daughters.  When she is not raising a family or leading Northwest Connections programs, she teaches outdoor skills courses for the Aerie School for Backcountry Medicine.

Tom Parker
Conservation Specialist

Tom Parker is co-founder of Northwest Connections and currently serves as its Conservation Specialist advising field reseach projects.  Tom has been an outfitter and guide based in the Swan Valley and surrounding wilderness areas for over 30 years. His intimate knowledge of the landscape and its ecology of the Crown of the Continent has garnered a wide array of respect from citizens, scientists and activists in the region, the state and the country. Whether he is guiding hunters, teaching students or leading natural history outings, Tom's respect and appreciation for natural systems is apparent and contagious.

Marnie Criley
Community Program Coordinator

Marnie is Northwest Connections' Community Program Coordinator.  Marnie is also owner-operator of Watershed Consulting, a business specializing in land restoration.  Marnie has been doing on-the-ground restoration and stewardship projects for 20 years. Marnie has also been involved with numerous restoration-focused collaboratives at a national, regional and local scale, and these efforts have led to her interest in the relationship between ecological restoration and human communities. Marnie is a member of the Montana Forest Restoration Committee and is the Board Executive V.P. for the Society for Ecological Restoration Northwest Chapter. Marnie has an M.S. degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan.

Rebekah Rafferty
Education Program Associate

Rebekah is Northwest Connections' Education Program Associate.  She conducts outreach to students and professors from around the country to promote the field study opportunities at Northwest Connections.

Rebekah  is currently completing her Master's degree in Social Science, with an emphasis in Environment & Community, from Humboldt State University. Her focus is on wolves and the ability of ranchers to mitigage livestock depredation. Rebekah has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz.  She is a primary instructor for Wildlife in the West.

Rebekah likes to write, hike, track critters through the forest, and stay busy learning as much of Montana's natural history as she possibly can.

Laura Arvidson
Conservation Program Associate

Laura Arvidson is Northwest Connections' Conservation Program Associate.  Laura manages NwC's Beck Creek Gardens, runs NwC's internship program, and works as a field technician and an assistant instructor. She is passionate about growing food, doing field based conservation work and teaching outdoors.  Laura is a 5th generation Montanan, and earned a degree in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana. Laura is also Northwest Connections' Risk Management Coordinator.

Susan Novosel
Marketing Coordinator

Susan Novosel is Northwest Connections' Marketing Coordinator.  Susan worked for decades in the fast paced world of advertising back east.  Since moving to the Swan Valley over ten years ago she has lent her skills to Northwest Connections managing the website and overseeing all aspects of communications. 


Grace Burgess
Office Manager

Grace Burgess is Northwest Connections' Office Manager.  She worked in several capacities with military and goverment agencies in Virgina before moving to the Swan Valley in 2005.  Grace provides financial and clerical support services to all of Northwest Connections programs.  Grace and her husband love the outdoors and enjoy exploring Montana by horseback.

Luke Lamar
Field Technician

Luke was born and raised in the Swan Valley. He received a B.S. in wildlife biology from the University of Montana, and is an alumnus of Winter Field Studies. Luke has worked as a wilderness ranger in the Mission Mountains Wilderness since 2003. He is a Field Technician with NwC and has participated in the grizzly bear DNA project and winter carnivore track surveys. When not working, he can be found hunting, fly-fishing, or exploring wild country.  

Mike Stevenson
Field Technician

Mike Stevenson, a native Montanan and long time woodsman of the Swan Valley and Bob Marshall Wilderness, also has a firm grasp of the site specific ecology of several of our threatened and endangered species. Mike works as a master woodworker and building contractor, and contributes to Northwest Connections' monitoring and education programs part time. Mike enjoys journeying across the mountains to the Blackfoot Indian Reservation where both he spends time with family and old friends.

Jessy Stevenson
Swan Valley Legacy Trails Project Coordinator

Jessy is Northwest Connection's Swan Valley Legacy Trails Project Coordinator. She will be working over the summer 2014 season on the initial stages of the Swan Valley Legacy Trails Project, which aims to provide a diversity of recreation and education opportunities to community members and visitors of the Swan Valley.

Jessy is currently working on a degree in Resource Conservation, with an emphasis in Community Development and Sustainable Livelihoods, at the University of Montana, and continues to pursue a self-directed education in Sustainable Agriculture and Permaculture through international internships and volunteer work.

Jessy was raised in the Swan Valley's Mission Mountains and loves to explore Montana's wild places through hiking, climbing, biking and illustration. Passion for experiential education and sustainable food systems also inspires her to explore and learn from communities around the world.

Guest Instructors

A diversity of guest speakers round out the instructional staff for our field programs. Swan Valley community members, local and regional biologists, agency personnel, business owners and environmentalists serve as speakers, hosts and guides. All of our speakers contribute to our field programs through their deep knowledge of the region's ecology, economy and community. See a sampling of some of the speakers students may meet >>